Finding the Courage to Tell a Painful Story by Experimenting with Leads
For most of my life, visiting the dentist never bothered me. About five years ago, however, a horrific pain in my right back molar awakened me in the night. I went to school trying to convince myself the pain would subside. But with each passing hour of day, my hope dissipated along with my pain tolerance. By the end of the day, I found myself back in the dentist office where I had been a few weeks prior for a rather routine visit. Unfortunately, it was the beginning of a long and stressful journey that led to thousands of dollars of dental work and many hours of suffering. Eventually, I was contacted by the PA Board of Dentistry and asked to testify in court against the dentist. I was one of over a hundred people who had submitted a formal complaint.
This horrible experience is behind me now, and I now have a competent and patient dentist to help me. So, when I went for my routine appointment today, I remembered as I sat in the chair how much I've been through and how far I've come.
It only seemed natural to write about my experience, but I'm not ready to relive all of the agonizing trauma. I think, however, one way I can begin to enter this story is to write a fiction piece. But truthfully, I don't even feel ready to delve completely into that. So, today I begin with an experiment of leads. My hope is that by fleshing out different kinds of leads, I'll find the courage to open the door to a traumatic time and tell the story.
Please feel free to comment on which lead you like the best or even ways I could improve them.
This lead draws the reader in with compelling dialogue.
"Open up and let me take a look," Dr. Terre instructed in a most abrupt manner.
Sound Effect Lead (Onomatopoeia)
By starting with sound effects, this lead quickly captures the reader's attention.
"Zzzzzrrrrrwwwwhiizzzzzz..." The doctor fired up his drill and without warning began to pummel the compromised tooth. I choked and finally began to yell. "Ohhhhh, Gooooood, Noooooo!" I spontaneously grabbed his wrist and pulled his tool out of my mouth. He became angry with me.
An interesting question gets the reader to think.
What could be worse than a dentist reaching in your mouth and beginning to file your tooth when you're already throbbing in pain?
The reader becomes involved in the story with an exciting event or some kind of action.
I grabbed his wrist and yanked it with great force, pushing his whirring drill out of my mouth. I sat up with a jolt and choked back the tears.
When you paint a picture with words, you draw the reader in.
The late afternoon light is pouring through the office window casting an orange light on the tan vinyl chair in which I sit. My entire head throbbing. My jaw is aching. The dentist is searching for what's causing such enormous pain. All of a sudden, without warning, he's filing my tooth with a high speed drill. The pain sent me to orbit and I thought I may send him there as well...
This lead takes the reader back to a specific event in the past.
The reminder flashed on the screen of my phone. 4:45PM - Dentist. I was drawn back almost against my will to the dreadful day when I sat anxiously in the tan vinyl chair while the dentist examined my throbbing tooth. Then, without warning he stuck his drill in my mouth and began to file the tooth that was already hurting. It sent me into an agonizing pain.
I stopped myself from remembering more. It was too much.
The pen is powerful. Stories can't hide when we use it. It's when we write the hardest stories that freedom begins to take its rightful place in our souls. Let's give students the power by encouraging them to pick up their pens and write the stories that need to be told. Perhaps when students experiment with leads they, too, will find the courage to finally tell the hardest stories.